Ag Technology

Updated: March 7, 2017

Current Situation

Technological advances are providing opportunities for farmers to maximize on-farm efficiency, but abundant choices and the rapid pace of change in the industry has created a barrier to farmers adopting these advances more rapidly. Key barriers to adoption include lack of information available to farmers from unbiased sources, lack of farmer knowledge about technology products and the expense of implementing new technology. According to a November 2016 Farm Journal Media survey, 76 percent of farmers want to learn more about ag technology, while 66 percent of farmers view cross-brand compatibility, using data and data’s return on investment as the top challenges or barriers in using ag technology.

Why the Checkoff Cares

The checkoff’s mission is to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. On-farm technology has shown great potential to help farmers maximize their profitability. Additionally, U.S. soy end users are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of products they purchase. Many of the on-farm technologies available to farmers today can play a valuable role in meeting these demands for sustainability, through a more precise use of inputs and targeted crop and field management. Data collection through the use of on-farm technologies can also be used to demonstrate continuous improvement against on-farm sustainability metrics.

Key Points

  • The availability of information technology, internet-connected equipment and management software to enhance agricultural operations is growing rapidly.
  • Knowledge and adoption of these innovations can allow soybean farmers to capture opportunities for increased productivity and sustainability. Ignoring these opportunities could lead to declines in productivity and profitability.
  • Technological advances make it possible for farmers to have data on nearly every aspect of their operation unlike ever before. However, many farmers are skeptical of big data because of their perceived lack of control over it, the sheer quantity of data and, to some extent, and inherent distrust that their data is being used by agribusiness to upsell them.
  • Rapid change in advancements and offerings of on-farm information technologies and lack of compatibility among many brands make decisions on selecting the appropriate technology mix confusing.
  • The lack of independent analysis of on-farm information technologies result in U.S. soybean farmers being dependent on performance information from providers.
  • The soy checkoff is currently exploring ways to provide farmers with unbiased assessments of on-farm technology, how to help them invest in technology best suited for their operation and how to use the corresponding data to make continuous improvements.

Facts & Figures

  • Less than half of farmers report that they use on-farm technology (drones or equipment monitors), precision agriculture practices (using information collected from machinery or imaging and using to make planting or fertilizer and pesticide application decisions), or big data (aggregating and using data to compare your farm to other operations) (USB Fall Producer Survey, 2016).
  • Seventy-six percent of farmers want to learn more about ag technology, but nearly half find that it’s difficult to keep up because there is so much to learn. An additional 28 percent don’t even know where to start. Only 22 percent of farmers feel like they have learning about new ag technology under control (Farm Journal Media farmer survey, 2016).
  • When asked about adapting to new technologies and innovations on their farm, only 12 percent of farmers say they jump on the new technology during the first growing season, 46 percent say they wait until the second or third year, and 40 percent say that they wait until it has been through enough seasons that they know they aren’t going to have any unexpected problems (USB Fall Producer Survey, 2016).
  • Twenty-five percent of farmers say that they would adopt new ag technologies and innovations faster within the first or second growing season if they heard more from other farmers. Twenty percent want clearer information on the cost, and 16 percent want cheaper products (USB Fall Producer Survey, 2016).
  • Nearly one-third of farmers say they receive information they trust about new ag technology from other farmers (USB Fall Producer Survey, 2016).